The Biafran War of Independence is easily the best documented conflict in the
history of Africa. Much has been written both from the Nigerian and from the
Biafran viewpoints.
The chapters in this volume, however, constitute the second legal professional
attempt at an assessment of one facet of the conflict, i.e. the issue of
genocide committed by Nigeria against Biafra.
To call this the second attempt is not to overlook the fact, perhaps an
important fact from the Nigerian point of view, that there has been since
1968 a party of 'distinguished' guests of the Nigerian Government, more
generally referred to as the International Observer Team (none of whom is a
lawyer), and that this Team has brought out a number of reports on the
question of genocide. This volume, on the other hand, is the second attempt
by a Committee of International lawyers not committed to either side of the
conflict to make an assessment of the position.
The International Committee on the Investigation of Crimes of Genocide, a
quasi-official organ, received a complaint from the Government Of Biafra in
which complaint the Government of Nigeria were accused of acts of genocide.
The Committee forthwith appointed one Dr. Mensah, a Ghanaian, to travel both
to Nigeria and Biafra and write a report on the complaint for its
consideration. Dr. Mensah travelled to Biafra in December, 1968, and met a
wide range of people including refugees from Northern Nigeria during the 1966
Pogrom; refugees from Mid-Western Nigeria; Biafran Government officials and
private individuals. He also met a number of relief workers and other
expatriates in Biafra. A number of affidavits were collected from a number
of people on this trip.
He also travelled to Nigeria in March 1969 with a letter of introduction from
the Committee. In Lagos he had interviews with the Nigerian Ministry of
Defence, the International Red Cross, the International Observer Team (who
promptly told him that they were not lawyers and are therefore not interested
in any legal definition of genocide); and Mr. S. G. Ikoku. In Kaduna, in
Northern Nigeria, he saw a number of army officers and had discussions with
On his return he wrote his Investigator's Report also found in this volume.
The International Committee met in Paris on March 22-23, 1969, under the
Chairmanship of a distinguished British International Jurist, Professor
Lopez-Rey. Dr. Mensah read out a gist of his report which had been delivered
to the Committee in various languages long before the date of the meeting.
Other speakers at the meeting included journalists who had lately been to
Biafra and some others who presented the Nigerian viewpoint.
The Committee resolved that there was a prima-facie evidence of genocide
against the Biafrans and embodied this in a communique which is also included
in this volume.
Page i
On behalf of the 14 million people of the Republic of Biafra I pray hereby to
lodge the following complaint which bears out, clearly and incontrovertibly,
evidence of deliberate committal and contraventions of the United Nations
Convention on Genocide, by the Federal Authorities in Nigeria. As I lodge
this complaint the acts of genocide being complained of are continuing with
increasing fury in the Republic of Biafra. The situation calls for the
urgent action of your Committee, and the human Rights Committee of the United
Nations Organisation. The evidence hereunder outlined is only a
representative sample of innumerable acts of Atrocities and genocide being
perpetrated by Nigerian authorities in Biafra.
On the 30th May, 1967, abiding by the resolutions of the joint session of the
Advisory Committee of Chiefs and Elders and the Consultative Assembly of the
Representatives of the People, His Excellency the Military Governor of the
then Eastern Nigeria proclaimed the territorial area, comprising the former
Eastern Region of the Federation of Nigeria, as the Republic of Biafra. It
is not intended in this complaint to delve into the political problems that
led to this proclamation. It must however be stressed that for a more proper
appreciation of the factors that have led to the present complaint, a good
understanding of the political scene is essential. There are several
publications by the Government of Biafra, and impartial observers treating
these aspects of the matter, and the members of this honourable committee are
respectfully requested to acquaint themselves with some of these
Page 1 Contd.../
I would, however, crave the indulgence of this august committee to relate
certain political facts which are sine qua non to an understanding of the
problem at hand. The political entity christened Nigeria by Lady Lugard,
wife of a former British Governor, came into being with the amalgamation of
the various British Protectorates on the River Niger basin in 1914. The
merger was designed for administrative convenience, and did not socially
integrate the component units. Following World War II constitutional
development, Nigeria emerged with three separate and self-governing regions,
corresponding essentially to the three major ethnic groupings, uniting under
a federal government structure at the top. In 1960 the Federation of Nigeria
was established by the British Imperial Government over the erstwhile
colonial territory of Nigeria. The shaky arrangement replete with
irreconcilable contradictions, known as the Federation of Nigeria, has proved
to have been without any federal potential to hold same together.
In Nigeria there are three major ethnic groups with widely divergent,
economic, social, cultural and political outlooks. These differences have
always presented platforms for mutual hostilities.
The major ethnic groups are:-
1. The Hausa/Fulani - Moslem by religion, feudalist in political economical
and social structures, boasting a population of 30 million out of Nigeria's
total population of 55 million. This ethnic group, prior to independence,
and since independence, has been in power in the Federation of Nigeria under
a constitution which made them the caretakers of Nigerian destiny in
2. The Yorubas - Partly Moslems and partly Christian population. Socially and
politically, the Yorubas are wedded to established systems of kingship
(obaship). Total population of 12 million. The Yoruba have more in common
with the Northerners than with those in the East, now known as Biafra.
Page 2 Contd.../
The Ibos - Total population about 10 million fanatically democratic and
republican in outlook with Christian population and leadership, and alleged
to be exuberantly dynamic. The Ibos have no tradition of ruling class or
families, leadership being based on personal merits. The Ibos inhabit
principally the former Eastern Nigeria, now known as the Republic of Biafra.
With the Ibos in Eastern Nigeria are the Ibibios and Ijaws who share the
same political, economic, cultural and social structures.
Under Colonial rule the British Imperial Government had excelled and glorified
itself in the so-called system of "indirect rule" for purposes of imperial
policy. The various ethnic groups above referred to were played off one
against the other - the sum result of this policy is that for 40 years under
British rule the agglomeration known as the Federation of Nigeria was
essentially made up of three divergent countries corresponding to the three
large ethnic groups, each suspicious of the other and perpetually
disagreeing. It was this hotch-potch of a territory that was on the lst of
October 1960 conferred the unmerited dignity of nationhood and styled as
"Federation of Nigeria".
Soon after independence it was obvious to all and sundry that the units could
not hold together. Despite attempts to gloss over differences, the so-called
Federation of Nigeria floundered from one crisis into another, and on the 7th
year of her birth, the contradictions inherent in the association had so
manifested themselves, that the units naturally fell apart. The hatred and
suspicion of the Northern and Western Nigeria against Eastern Nigeria (now
Biafra), had so deepened and matured that (incredible in an era which had
witnessed the atrocities of Nazi Germany) the Nigerians have conceived and
commenced to execute a policy and war of genocide as "a final solution" to
the Biafra problem.
According to Article II of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and
Punishment of the Crime of Genocide adopted on 9th December 1948 "genocide
means any of the following acts
Page 3 Contd.../
committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnic,
racial or religious group, as
a. Killing members of the group;
b. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
c. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to
bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
d. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
e. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Article III of the same convention stipulates that the following acts should
be punishable:
a. Genocide;
b. Conspiracy to commit genocide;
c. Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
d. Attempt to commit genocide;
e. Complicity in genocide.
Not so long ago the British House of Lords debated a Genocide Bill. Reporting
how Lord Stonham, Minister of State, Home Office, moved the second reading of
the Bill, the Times of London (13th November 1968), wrote:
"Genocide was a modern word for an old crime - the deliberate destruction of
any racial, religious or ethnic groups. The history of the world was
littered with these bloody episodes generated by evil motives and justified
by vicious pretexts. It was the appalling atrocities committed by the Nazi
Government of Germany which had shocked the world into outlawing this
abominable crime".
The underlying intention of Nigeria Authorities in its relations with the
people of the former Eastern Nigeria (now Biafra) had always been to solve
their political or other differences by calculated massacres of Biafran
citizens. Documentary evidence abounds in the speeches of Northern Nigeria
leaders in the regional
Page 4 Contd.../
Parliament, by Publications in Northern Nigeria official newspapers, brochures
and magazines of intention to liquidate Biafrans physically as a method of
solving a disagreement. Besides physical acts of extermination, the Biafrans
have been subjected to psychological pressures by malicious, vicious and
destructive falsehood that not only was a Biafran an unwanted "stranger" in
his own country, but the general object of hate and discrimination throughout
the length and breadth of Nigeria. In 1953, following the massacre of
Biafrans in Kano, a British administrative officer was commissioned to gather
evidence on the episode. His report, which is available for all to see,
confirms the gruesome fate of Biafrans in a Nigerian context. Following also
the wanton and unprecedented (in. scale and magnitude) massacres of 1966, the
Government of the then Eastern Nigeria appointed a judicial Tribunal of
Inquiry to investigate the massacres. This Tribunal of Inquiry was by law
"to inquire into the atrocities and other inhuman acts committed against
persons of Eastern Nigeria origin in Northern Nigeria and other parts of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria during the month of May 1966, and thereafter and
in particular -
(1) Collect and compile evidence relating to the atrocities;
(2) Ascertain the extent of loss of life and personal injuries;
(3) Examine, interpret and record medical cases brought to the notice of
the Tribunal;
(4) Ascertain the extent of loss of property and assess value.
This Committee was chairmanned by Mr. G. C. N. Onyiuke now a Justice of the
Biafra Court of Appeal. The Tribunal took evidence on oath from reports and
eye-witnesses concerning the matter into which it inquired. The report of
this Tribunal, which could be obtained from the Complainant on request, is
available. This Tribunal for short is referred to as the Atrocities
Tribunal. The impeccable documentation of this Tribunal has been extensively
quoted to cover the events of the fateful year 1966. The greater majority of
the witnesses before this
Page 5 Contd.../
Tribunal are still available to give evidence before this Committee if
required. The recorded proceedings of the Tribunal as well as the report are
too bulky for translation for example 235 witnesses gave evidence.
It is pertinent to observe that the Atrocities Tribunal found as a fact that
the Northern Nigeria authorities with their collaborators had devised a seven
point programme aimed at a complete extermination of the then Eastern
Nigerians (now Biafrans) in Northern Nigeria and other parts of the
Federation. The programme is outlined as follows:
1. (a) to kill off the Major-General and Supreme Commander of the
Armed Forces, T.J.T. Aguiyi-Ironsi
(b) to kill off all the Yamiri Army Officers;
(c) and subsequently purge the Army of Yamiri by killing the rest
in the ranks.
2. With the aid of the Westerners in the Army, to take complete control
of the Armed Forces, the Police and the Navy and to purge
off the Yamiri in these Forces too.
3. To kill off and dispossess all the Yamiri domiciled in the Northern
4. To use the control of the Armed Forces to take control of the
country's Government.
5. To revenge Sardauna's and Abubakar's death by killing Dr. Zik,
Dr. Okpara, Ojukwu and Major Nzeogwu.
6. To destroy Port Harcourt, Enugu and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
7. To kill all
(a) Yamiri in top civil service posts;
(b) all wealthy Yamiri - male and female;
(c) all Yamiri educational giants;
(d) all grown up males and females of Yamiri;
(e) to leave out only sucklings in Yamiri land.
(Tribunal Report pp. 133-134)
Page 6 Contd.../
It should be noted that radio broadcasts from Kaduna in the early part of the
present war did blatantly confirm the objectives of the programme and the
course of events ever since has proved the deliberate and faithful execution
of the programme. Programme nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 have now been fully achieved.
In the present war the brave and determined resistance of the Biafra people
have so far prevented the conclusion of programme No. 7.
Two remarkable examples may be given about how the rank and file of the
Nigerian Army feel about their mission in Biafra - a feeling which the
Nigerian Authorities have expressly and implicitly fostered. Soon after the
launching of the war of aggression by Nigeria on 6th July, 1967, and ever
since, the Nigerian radio based in Lagos has consistently broadcast before
and after its main news programme a war song in Hausa which bears the
following interpretation "Let us go and crush them. We will pillage their
property, ravish their womenfolk, murder their menfolk and complete the
pogrom of 1966". The Nigerian Army acts faithfully in the spirit of this
war song. A scrap book belonging to one GANIYU SODEINDE, NA. 38611,
Nigerian Army Weapon Training Depot, captured from the enemy at Bori contains
the following account of what his Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Onifade, who
was also killed in the front, very often repeated to his men about the
official Nigerian attitude towards Biafrans:
"He (referring to Lt.-Col. Onifade) expressed doubts at the possibility of
Nigeria subjugating Biafra in the present war. Even if this were possible,
he said, there was the danger that another generation of Biafrans could
spring up. He said that Germany had once faced the same period of trial in
her history which Biafra is facing at the moment; but today, the Germans are
leading the world in technological skill. Similarly, he predicted a glorious
future for Biafra if allowed to exist. But inherent in such a situation, he
felt was the obvious THREAT to Nigeria both now and ever. He stated that
what all sons and daughters of Nigeria should do to prevent such a situation
from developing was not only to subjugate Biafra but at the same time to
ensure that a new generation of Biafrans does not rise up to perpetuate their
race. He commanded us to kill every Biafran we meet."
Page 7 Contd.../
The issue as to whether genocide is being committed in Biafra or not raises no
problems at all. The Nigerian authorities have admitted that there is
genocide going on in Biafra. They however disclaim responsibility for same
and accuse Biafrans with the perpetration of these crimes against humanity.
In their paper to the O.A.U. Consultative Committee, the Nigerian delegation
cited examples of total extermination of towns and villages in Calabar area
of Biafra. The issue therefore is who is responsible for these acts of
genocide - Nigeria or Biafra. To decide this one has to remember that about
90% of the total population of the areas presently occupied by Federal
Nigerian Troops are either behind the Biafran lines or hiding in the bush.
Those behind the Biafran lines are seen by all visitors including the
international relief agencies in their hundreds of refugee camps. Those
hiding in the bush as well as those who fled behind the Biafran lines are
obviously running away !
from Nigerian troops.
Before Nigerian "Independence", - 1st October, 1960
The United Nations Genocide Convention particularly mentions acts committed
"with intent to destroy" a human group, and Lord Stonham speaks of "the
deliberate destruction" of such a group. For nearly a quarter of a century
Northern Nigerians have publicly expressed their intense hatred of Biafrans
and, on the slightest excuse, have physically demonstrated their intention to
destroy them. Several outbreaks of Nigerian hostility to Biafrans occurred
from time to time even during the British colonial era. In 1945 Northern
Nigerians set upon Biafrans resident at Jos and massacred them. But the
British Administration did not take the matter seriously and did not even
conduct an inquiry into the gruesome episode.
In Western Nigeria, in Yorubaland, there has always been the outcry at various
times for the "repatriation" of Biafrans.
In 1953, again, Northern Nigerians with a "universally unexpected degree of
violence", attacked and massacred Biafrans living in Kano. This time the
British were constrained by the nature and degree of the holocaust to order
an inquiry. The official Report, compiled by a British administrative
officer, produced incontestable evidence of intention, deliberation and
organisation on the part of the Northern Nigerian authorities.
Page 8 Contd.../
There was evidence that leading functionaries of the Northern Nigerian Native
Administration (N.A.) - an agency which the British themselves described as
"an integral part of the machinery of government" - were deeply involved in
the planning of the massacres of 1953. According to the Report, two days
before the massacre began on Thursday, 14th May 1953, Mallam (afterwards
Alhaji) Inua Wade, then Secretary of the Northern Peoples' Congress (N.P.C.)
and later Federal Minister of Works, convened a meeting of the N.A. sectional
heads at the Works Depot in Kano during which he made "a very ill-advised and
provocative speech." Inua Wada said, inter alia:
"We have organised about 1,000 men ready in the City to meet force with force
... the Northern Peoples' Congress has declared a strike in all Native
Administration Offices for Saturday, 16.5.53 ... we shall post sufficient
number of men at the entrance of every office and business place ... we are
prepared to face anything that comes out of this business ... " In the
outcome, so claimed the official estimate, 52 persons were killed and 245
wounded, most of the casualties being Biafrans. But the Report itself admits
that "there is still a possibility that more were killed than have been
recorded in view of conflicting statements by ambulance and lorry drivers"
(who carted off the dead bodies to their mass graves). In point of fact it
was widely known at the time that over 200 Biafrans had been killed and over
500 wounded. The occasion of this pogrom was that a Yoruba leader had made a
speech in Kano attacking the Northern Government - Biafrans on the whole were
not supporters of the politician in question.
The Report however perceived the depth of the hatred and bitterness which
Northern Nigerians nursed against Biafrans and concluded on a prophetic note
of warning:
"No amount of provocation, short-term or long-term, can in any way justify
their behaviour ... The seeds of the trouble which broke out in Kano on
May 16 (1953) have their counterparts still in the ground. It could happen
again, and only a realisation and acceptance of the under-lying causes can
remove the danger of recurrence".
An acceptance of the fact of there having been genocide.
Post-Nigerian "Independence": - 1st October 1960 - 15th January, 1966.
After Nigerian "Independence" (1 October 1960) the animosity harboured by
Nigerians, especially Northern Nigerians, against
Page 9 Contd.../